PROVIDENCE, RI -- Governor Gina Raimondo today joined Postsecondary Education Commissioner Brenda Dann-Messier in voicing opposition to the federal government's proposed revisions to regulations governing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses.
As part of the federal process amending regulations, proposed revisions must undergo a period of public comment. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Raimondo and Dann-Messier expressed concerns that the array of proposed revisions to the federal civil rights law known as Title IX -- which protects people from discrimination based on sex -- would narrow definitions of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses, create undue barriers to overcome and criteria to meet in order to report sexual violence, and weaken a higher education institution's obligation to protect and support victims.
The letter maintains that, "The state of Rhode Island is committed to fostering an environment of safety, empowerment, protection, and affirmative consent for our postsecondary students. The proposed changes to Title IX regulations [...] undermine these fundamental commitments."
"Rhode Island takes protecting our students seriously. In order for our educational institutions to prepare and inspire people for successful careers and lives, we must ensure that students are safe and supported," said Governor Raimondo. "Secretary DeVos's proposed revisions to Title IX would move Rhode Island and the country in the wrong direction. So much progress has been made over the last decades in how college campuses handle sexual assault and support victims. We refuse to go backwards."
"The students of Rhode Island have been well-served by the existing Title IX guidance. The proposed revisions undermine our fundamental commitment to serving all students equitably and to providing our students with safe and supportive learning environments," Commissioner Dann-Messier said. "Rhode Island supports survivors of sexual harassment and assault, and we must do all we can to clear the path for them to report their experiences and receive support."
The letter issued today cites eight provisions in the proposed changes to the regulations that the Governor and Commissioner say would create unnecessary obstacles to appropriately implementing Title IX protections at Rhode Island's institutions of higher education:
1. Narrowing the definition of sexual harassment
2. Limiting to whom on campus a victim may report sexual assault or harassment
3. Limiting the responsibility of an institution to conduct a Title IX investigation based on the location where it occurred
4. Allowing for live cross examination of the victim by the accused through representatives
5. Permitting institutions of higher education to determine their own standards of evidence in cases of sexual assault or harassment
6.Removing the requirement that an institution complete its investigation of alleged incidents in a timely manner
7. Allowing institutions to choose to implement an appeals process only for accused students but not for victims
8. Permitting institutions to opt for an informal resolution such as mediation in incidents of sexual assault or harassment
The full letter to Secretary DeVos is linked below.